BWW Review: Company XIV's Sumptuous New Cavalcade, QUEEN OF HEARTS
For over a dozen years, the brilliant director/choreographer Austin Mccormick and the intriguing troupe of artists he's gathered to create and expand Company XIV have been luring audiences to witness productions that evolve classic tales we've loved as children (The Nutcracker, Cinderella, Snow White) into visits to sensually-charged wonderlands.
So it's only proper that their sumptuous new cavalcade, QUEEN OF HEARTS, is inspired by Lewis Carroll's story of Alice's adventures down the rabbit hole.
Like all Company XIV productions, the experience begins upon entering the elegantly-designed interior of their exclusive nightclub/showplace, located on an otherwise drab industrial Bushwick block, and breathing in the scented air as scantily-dressed hosts escorts guests to their tables and offer to deliver the house's signature cocktails.
And like all Company XIV productions, McCormick has shaped the presentation around the talents of a wondrous ensemble of classical dancers, hoofers, operatic vocalists, pop singers, circus performers and burlesque stars, combining the 17th Century style of the court entertainments enjoyed by King Louis XIV of France with more contemporary sensibilities. The musical playlist ranges from Offenbach, Rossini and Tchaikovsky to Neil Sedaka, Nina Simone and Rihanna.
Alice herself is played by magnetically fierce vocalist LEXXE as a woman venturing out to experience new pleasures and fantasies. The three acts have her encountering Carroll's classic characters, played by XIV regulars performing their specialties.
The White Rabbit, for example, is played by powerhouse belter Michael Cunio, whose overtly sexual charisma and comical flair have made him a favorite among repeat visitors. Tweedledee and Tweedledum come in the form of vaudevillian identical twins Nicholas and Ross Katen performing a sexy mirror act. As "Eat Me," Ashley Dragon twirls within her Cyr wheel and Laszlo Major's "Drink Me" is a merman who seems to swim through the air as he pole dances. Contortionist Lilin Lace is carried onto the stage wrapped up as a caterpillar who is then transformed into an entrancing butterfly.
Habitual show-stopper Marcy Richardson, known for hitting operatic soprano trills while undulating mid-air, offers another stunning turn as The Mad Hatter, spinning above the audience in a chandelier while singing Michael Andrews' "Mad World."
When the Queen finally arrives, she's played by commanding blues vocalist Storm Marrero, who tears hearts out with her gripping rendition of "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood."
There is no other company in New York that does what Company XIV does on such a high artistic level. Like their past productions, QUEEN OF HEARTS is an adventure for the senses in a captivating world of erotic imagination.